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Women’s Day Is Every Day: How To Reach Out

International Women’s Day is today March 8.  But how can we celebrate women, not only on Women’s Day, but every day? The first answer that comes to my mind is to reach out to other women. We may already support them in our hearts and minds, but unless we act on our feelings, we’re not really affecting positive change. Reaching out alludes to action. And the most positive change we can help achieve among women is to strengthen our bonds with one another, thereby making us stronger as individuals and as a group—from a one-on-one level to a global one. In fact, if we each invest the time, energy and compassion to reach out to the women we know, as well as ones we don’t know, we’re all advancing together to make a real difference. Here’s just one simple way to reach out that can make a huge difference:

Contact a woman by phone that you haven’t talked with in awhile, just to talk.

  • First, ask the woman if she has a few moments, or if it’s a good time to call. She may be busy or on her way out the door.  If so, offer to call again.
  • If she has time to talk, ask a question that shows you’re thinking about her wellbeing,  like “How have you been?” or “What’s new in your life?”
  • Listen to her answers. Don’t interrupt her. (This can be counter-intuitive, since we’re prone to think about our response to someone who’s talking, rather than listening to every word she is saying.)
  • When she pauses, respond in caring ways to show that you’ve been listening with empathy. Keep it about her, not you.
  • Then and only then, tell her what’s on your mind. Better yet, ask another question.
  • When you respond, refrain from trying to top her story with one that you think is more important or more entertaining. This is not a contest. It’s a conversation.
  • Keep your answers honest, humble, and brief. It’s OK to talk about an accomplishment but soft-pedal it. Be ready to laugh at yourself. Always make her comfort a priority.
  • Don’t be too anxious to close the conversation. You can afford to take this time to reinforce a connection, making it more meaningful. What could be more important?

The benefits of making this call are limitless. Although it may seem to amount to nothing— at least at first—a deeper friendship may grow out of this casual encounter. It not, there’s no harm done: At the very least, she will appreciate your effort and may even reciprocate. Nothing needs to be forced or seem unnatural.

Whatever the outcome of this call, you have every reason to feel good about it, because you put the other woman’s words ahead of your own, if only for a few moments. It’s likely to feel so good, you’ll want to do it again. So you call someone else, strike up a conversation in the grocery store, write a note to a  friend, or approach another woman at a meeting or party. Before you know it, you’re making genuine friends, expanding your support network, and actively creating new ways to engage with other women, helping one another as well as underserved members of your community.

Of course, you can reach out to others every day of the year, as many times as you like. Maybe you already do. If not, you may be surprised how much joy this can create in your life and the lives of others. Perhaps that’s why engage and joy together form the word enjoyment.

How to Stand Up to Exploitation

As women, we often find it difficult to say how we feel. When someone hurts our feelings, we suck it up or turn the other cheek, making excuses for the person who’s undermined us—telling ourselves they didn’t really mean it. We’re in denial. Or we decide it’s not worth the effort to call someone out for disrespectful behavior.

We need to stop enabling another’s rudeness, insensitivity, and cruelty—and the sooner the better. Author and motivational speaker Tony Gaskins said “You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.”

Take a moment to think about how and when you give others permission to treat you with disrespect. A particular person or event may come to mind. Or you may be able to think of several people you know that you’d like to give a piece of your mind, but you don’t want confrontation. Others know this from the clues you give. The bullies in particular will take advantage time after time, if you let them. Beyond this, even those who treat others with respect may overlook your right to considerate treatment, because they don’t see your value, especially when you’re self-effacing.

The phenomenon of men taking unfair advantage of their power over women has become blatantly evident today. While it’s disturbing, it offers us the opportunity to apply all our reserves of courage and integrity to put a stop to sexual, physical and emotional assault, abuse and harassment in all of its ugly forms, from groping and other offensive behaviors to rape, domestic violence and human trafficking. I applaud women’s show of support for one another in this crucial global endeavor. We all need to get on board to effect substantial positive change.

While it’s important to report any unlawful breach of women’s rights by men (or women), it’s even more effective to stop invasive and inappropriate acts of aggression against us before they start, whenever possible. Ideally, we need to become more financially independent to carry more clout in our struggle for human liberties. But women’s advancement has proven a huge challenge within our patriarchal culture. Although we’re gaining momentum, it will continue to take tenacious and unified effort to free ourselves from exploitation.

This means each of must prioritize our rights to humane treatment above our valid feelings of fear—based on our economic dependence, our vulnerability, and even our disposition toward compassion. This requires raw courage, which we’re progressively flexing in the face of intimidation. For many of us, it means breaking a lifetime pattern of excusing men for their unfeeling conduct toward us. But, in order to change, do we need to put up a hostile front that might further endanger us—and our children?

Actually no—at least I hope not—if only we can make our feelings known—in a civil but firm manner—not only with men, but with other women as well. When we establish boundaries and stand up for ourselves every time someone attempts to cross them, we’re teaching others to respect us as human beings, equal in every way to everyone else on the planet. While it’s best to establish our boundaries at the beginning of our relationships, in reality, it may seem too late to expect those we’ve known for months or years to begin to respect them, but still it’s worth an earnest try;

Especially if you’re responding to a verbal affront, telling a man (or woman) how you feel doesn’t necessitate fighting, yelling or screaming. You don’t need to say something hateful in return to someone’s callousness. You can simply say, “That hurts me,” or “Ouch” or “I feel disrespected.” Whatever you say, limit your observation to your own feelings and emotions, instead of calling the other person a jerk, a perv…or whatever comes to mind. Then—and only then— you can stop, listen and watch for that person’s reaction.

If he (or she) tells you that you’re 1) overreacting, 2) crazy, 3) silly, 4) imagining things, 5) paranoid, 6) a prude, or 7) a bitch—whatever they can think of to invalidate your feelings as well as your rights to fairness, consideration and respect, you can remain calm and confident in the truth of your position. It’s wise at this moment not to escalate things, because you want to avoid name-calling, threats, or violence. If the situation heats up, risking your safety, despite your best efforts, your best option is to remove yourself from the situation—at least for the time being.

On the other hand, the person who’s offended you might apologize right away. Only you can decide whether it’s sincere. If it’s the first offense, you may give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt. If that person is a family member, or someone you think you want in your life, it’s up to you to reinforce your standards in the future, by asserting your boundaries with consistence. The question becomes: how many times must you say “no,” or “that hurts me” before he (or she) stops the hostile, offensive behavior and treats you with respect? For your own wellbeing and peace of mind, not to mention your protection, I hope you won’t keep this toxic, predatory individual in your life—with license to harm or destroy you on ongoing basis. It’s really never worth it.

If you’re in a thankless place in your life where others seem to ignore, berate or hurt you with impunity, please know that you are a remarkable woman—intelligent, kind, and lovable—and you deserve respect. Seek out other caring people within your reach, who can help you take the steps you need to improve your life. Perhaps counseling will help. If you find yourself a target of someone’s violence, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656 HOPE (4673) or the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233: Keep your actions secret from the perpetrator and learn from professionals how to escape your dangerous situation in the safest possible way.

Finally, if you have a daughter or a son, or if you know a youth with issues of self-esteem, please say and do what you can to encourage that person to assert her (or his) rights to humane treatment.

If we work together, it’s our best chance at creating a more just and loving world and save lives in the process.

 

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones

Writer/Producer/Speaker

Founder of  Women Who Walk the Talk™

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Ego is in Control, You’re Not!

An ego is not necessarily a good or bad thing. The word “ego” was originally Latin meaning ”I.” We all need a healthy ego to survive or even thrive. But while other personality attributes are sometimes rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest rating, an ideal ego reflects a healthy balance of self-serving qualities with merits  that tend to be more selfless. For example, perhaps a 5, 6 or 7 on a scale of 10 is optimal in rating a healthy ego, while a 10 is over the top—and likely represents an egoist or narcissist.

Why is a 10 rating detrimental to our best interests? Because when your ego takes control of your every move, you actually become a slave to its demands. Not only this, but an overly egotistical disposition makes a person intolerable to others. Of course this isn’t you, but almost everyone has experienced watching a friend’s eyes glaze over when we’re talking—and if we’re good at picking up cues—we realize that we’ve been running on a bit about our accomplishments and good fortune. Even if she (or he) is too kind to tell you to your face, when you monopolize conversations by talking about yourself in glowing terms, your listeners are bored and might also be offended.

Here are a few self-checks to see whether your ego is taking control or if the real you is in charge…

The 100% unfiltered ego:

  • Needs to be right—all the time. Is incapable of an apology or admission of a mistake.
  • Needs to be the best. It’s more important to win than to play the game with fairness.
  • Is easily offended. Relationships are fragile and easily broken.
  • Is losing sight of an inner self—sometimes called a conscience or a soul. Deep inside feels afraid, worried, depressed, or angry due to a loss of peace of mind.

On the other hand, the healthy ego:

  • Is open-minded—more concerned about learning from experience than being right or wrong. Keeps a sense of humor, admits mistakes, and continues to advance at her (or his) own pace.
  • Competes only with the self in working on self-improvement. Doesn’t get involved in petty comparisons with others. Likes to help others succeed and is happy for their achievements.
  • Stands up for herself (or himself) with assertiveness when important boundaries are crossed, but let’s go of minor offenses. More concerned with a win-win outcome than proving superiority and perfection, an impossible task.
  • Is self-aware and at peace with her (or his) inner growth, because it aligns with her (or his) values, integrity, and potential for happiness.

Examples of female over-the top 100% narcissists are rare if indeed any at all exist. But it seems as women we’re more pressured all the time to be at the top of our game in every facet of our lives—an often unhealthy aspect of perfectionism. So if your ego seems a little tarnished—from trying to maintain an image that conflicts with the human being inside—a little auto correct will set things right, allowing your authentic self to shine.

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones

Writer/Producer/Speaker, Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™

 

How Can Women Celebrate Independence?

 

Both men and women celebrate Independence Day today in the U.S., but there are not-so-subtle differences in how we observe our freedom. One discrepancy might be that the women clean the dishes after the barbecue while men watch baseball. While each gender is likely bonding among themselves in these ritual practices, we rarely if ever see the situation reversed—at least not in traditional families.

I suppose we could go on strike, insisting that men do the clean up while we go the movies to see Wonder Woman. But to many of us, it’s really not that important that we have our way in such trivial matters. We’d rather keep peace than rock the boat.

On a larger scale, just how are we to celebrate our freedom and autonomy if we live in more-or-less subservient rolls, not just at home but in the office as well?

First, we can pause to think just how far we’ve progressed in attaining our equality to men in every aspect of our lives. If that progress as been less than we had hoped—since yesterday or a year ago or even since we were girls—we can focus on exactly how we can change the status quo to bring more justice and balance into our lives on a personal level.

Here are a few suggestions of how we can become more independent:

  • Assert ourselves more in all our relationships. This doesn’t mean expressing anger or aggression but simply stating our needs—openly, directly, and with confidence.
  • Express our values, thoughts and beliefs without apology. At the same time, we can be open to others’ ideas when they are different than ours, respecting their freedom as much as our own.
  • Love ourselves enough to value our rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and to protect those rights in daily practice, setting boundaries before they are threatened.
  • Defend women’s rights to liberty and equality, not only when we vote, but in showing compassion for other women and children who are underserved, by coming to their aid and defense in public forums.

We’ve all heard the refrain in the National Anthem “the land of the free and the home of the brave.We’ve been brave for centuries in so many selfless ways. It’s time to take our rightful place—beside men not behind them—in creating a bright future for our loved ones, our country, the world…and ourselves.

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones

Writer/Producer/Speaker, Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Trust Yourself

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Even before we’re fully adult, even before our preteens, we begin to realize that we can’t rely on others to serve all our needs.  It’s healthy to acknowledge this and take pleasure and pride in becoming more independent. While no man—or woman—is an island, we need to be able to trust ourselves to become essentially autonomous in providing for our education and later for our livelihood, setting appropriate boundaries for our self-protection. My previous blog “Who’s In Charge of Your Destiny?” explores this topic in detail.

While most of us attend public or private school, at least through most of high school, and some of us go to college or technical school, a curriculum is meaningless unless we want to learn. Following higher education, women as well as men find work to support ourselves and perhaps our families. The more motivated we are to succeed in making a living that provides a productive life and even fulfills our passion, the more likely we’ll adapt to adult life as self-sufficient—and happy—individuals.

For women, the pressure to marry can undermine their path toward personal growth. While marriage is not inherently detrimental to a woman’s advancement toward her full potential, it can influence her to play a secondary role to her husband, remaining at home without a compelling purpose, while he assumes the traditional role of provider. Having children can create a sense of purpose that’s very real, but in today’s culture offspring are not considered mandatory to marriage—but rather a personal choice. Besides, focusing on children likely  contributes to their development more than their mother’s. Too often, women put everyone else’s needs before their own, and feel depleted and undervalued as a result.

Whether married or single, it’s critical that women develop our own sense of self-esteem that’s not dependent on the positions or status of our families—in particular our parents’ or husband’s—because this has little or nothing to do with the growth of our  characters, which is all about learning to trust ourselves as fully functioning females who are capable of acting out of our own free will. Below are some steps that can help us to gain confidence in expressing our true selves, without shame or apology:

 

  • Forgive yourself. Put regrets and unhappy memories in the past where they belong. You’ve learned from these experiences, now it’s time to move forward.

 

  • Develop awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Express them with assertiveness and consideration for others’ feelings.

 

  • Establish your standards and values and then do your best to follow them every day. Refuse to compromise your ethical code.

 

  • Practice integrity, which means your actions are consistent whether or not anyone is watching.

 

  • Make commitments to yourself and others. Keep them. You can start small. For example, offer to do something kind for someone and then follow through.

 

  • Speak with kindness to yourself. Stay busy with enjoyable esteem-building tasks to block out negative voices in your mind.

 

  • Don’t try to be perfect, just be real. Accept your humanity. Your need for self-trust is the knowledge that you can survive.

 

  • Trust your instincts. If someone’s negative behavior seems to be trying to tell you something—especially if it’s ongoing—examine your feelings, and listen to your instincts as a protective red flag.

 

  • Don’t lie to yourself about any negative feedback you receive from the universe, including your relationships. It can help to keep a journal to discover recurring patterns in your own and others’ behavior. Otherwise you may remain in a state of denial, fearful to confront a problem, or unwilling to leave an unhealthy situation.

 

  • Don’t try to control everything, so you can feel safe. The only behavior you can control is your own. While you can be assertive in telling someone when they’re hurting you, or asking what the problem is that’s causing them to offend you, you can’t effectively tell them how to behave. Sometimes walking away is preferable to confrontation. There’s a difference between giving up and realizing that you’ve had enough.

 

  • Finish what you start. Completing what you plan to do is a big step toward self- trust and resulting self-confidence. But there’s a caveat to this advice: Sometimes you may need to experiment, and in doing so, you don’t get the results you want. This isn’t failure. It’s just a learning experience. Accept it without drama and don’t repeat the same action to get different results. Use your new knowledge to figure out another more creative approach to your project.

 

  • Stop seeking advice instead of trusting yourself to make your own decisions. Sometimes people ask for advice they expect will be negative because they think they should get a variety of opinions. While “polling” or “testing” may be advisable in some impersonal forums, such as business, don’t get in the habit of doing this when it affects your personal life decisions. You must be accountable for making the right choices. First and foremost, listen to your positive inner voice.

 

  • Make a list of your many strengths, positive traits, and admirable qualities. Refer to this at times when you self-esteem is low.

 

  • Nurture yourself. Give yourself time to play and relax. Make taking care of yourself is your number one priority, so you have energy to share your joy with others. Mediation can be helpful, which is basically clearing your mind.

 

  • Stop being self-deprecating. This can be a tough one. Often people will say, “She has a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor.” While this can be a very likable trait it’s always a two-edged sword, because others will usually treat you with the same level of respect that you seem to have for yourself. In fact, a more selfish or narcissistic man or woman will often use your voiced weakness against you, to undermine your confidence, gaining control of his or her relationship with you.

 

  • Stay clear of people who undermine your self-sufficiency. While it may not be possible to completely avoid others who tend to demoralize you, you can give them a wide berth, and take their negative comments with a grain of salt. More often than not, they’re reflecting their own lack of self–worth. They may even be jealous of your progress and proficiency. If you believe they’re true friends, regardless of their negativity, it may be worthwhile to initiate a calm, non-blaming, win-win discussion of your feelings which are blocking productive communication. But be aware that sometimes you can actually play into the hands of a “closet opponent” by bringing up a problem that they won’t admit exists.

 

I hope you find this helpful along your journey to your authentic and best self, which are one and the same.

 

Mary Kathryn “M.K. Jones

Writer/Producer/Advocate for Women

Who’s in Charge of Your Destiny?

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I hope as you’re reading this you’re thinking to yourself, “I am in charge of my destiny.” I’m not saying we don’t all need others to guide us and sometimes help us along our journeys. Nor am I implying that there is no God. But I do believe that God—or a universal force—gave us the gift of free will. Whatever your beliefs, I want to love yourself, believe in yourself and trust yourself enough to claim the right to make your own choices, especially the most important ones, including:

  • What do you value?
  • What do you want to do with your life?
  • Who do you want to love?
  • What is your greatest life purpose?

No one else—not your mate, your friends, or your parents—have the right to make these choices for you, because they’re not living your life.  Only YOU are. These choices are a privilege, a blessing—whatever you wish to call them—but they belong to you and you alone!

Yes, sometimes choices can seem scary.  Once we make decisions that will determine our destiny we must accept responsibility for them, and that can feel overwhelming.  But when we think about it, if we’re really making choices for ourselves—without undue pressure or influence—the most responsible choices are those that make us happy! We’re actually entitled to be happy as long as we accept responsibility for our choices! Once we become adults, like the title of Sylvia Boorstein’s inspiring book, Happiness Is an Inside Job.

 But there’s another side to this issue: At the same time we’re entitled to make our own choices, we’re not entitled to sit back and wait for someone to make us happy, unless that individual chooses of his or her free will to add to our happiness by sharing in our lives. 

If you think you’ve relinquished your right to determine your destiny more than you care to admit, it’s time to love yourself more, believe in yourself more, and trust yourself more every day of your life, starting today. When you do, you’ll begin to discover you can share yourself more freely from you heart, because you want to, not because you must. When you love yourself, it’s so much easier to love your friends, your family, and everyone you meet—by choice, not mandate. The others in our lives are not supposed to be our burden and they don’t want to be. They want the freedom and dignity to make their own choices, just as we do. We’re not entitled to expect them to love us out of a sense of duty. Nor do we have the right to make their decisions for them.

There’s a saying that we all get older, but maturity is optional. Unfortunately, there’s some truth to this. People are born to grow and evolve, but some of us resist personal growth all or most of our lives out of a lack of confidence or fear of unknown consequences.

Of course, as children we’re not ready to accept full responsibility for ourselves. It’s in large part the responsibility of the parents and other adults in our lives to provide us with a secure and happy childhood, at least as much as is possible.  But as children, we also need preparation for adulthood, so we can become independent and make good choices—our choices. This will never happen if adults don’t encourage us to become autonomous, at the same time letting us know we’re loved and trusted.

 Let’s release whatever happened to us—especially as children—that has  sabotaged our self-assurance. And while we’re at it, let’s forgive ourselves and our loved ones for being human. Let’s make the choice to model a code of respect for ourselves and others, despite what may be the blaming, meddling, or bullying habits of anyone else in our lives. And let’s begin this moment, if for no other reason, to find peace of mind. Beyond this, perhaps we can inspire those we love to do the same.  But if someone we know just doesn’t seem to get it, it’s not our job to coerce him or her—this is a lesson in wisdom we each need to learn for ourselves.

And it’s probably the happiest choice we’ll ever make.

Mary Kathryn “M.K. Jones

Writer/Producer/Advocate for Women

The Blind Justice of Love and Balance

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The best relationships are always built on mutual trust and respect.  Healthy relationships can’t survive, let alone thrive, without the respect that’s built on consistent honesty. Both parties are equally responsible for creating trust, through communicating their truth in an upfront manner, without hidden agendas of manipulation to gain an unfair advantage.

The truth can mean more than one thing: it can reflect the outlook, feelings, and opinions of someone from his or her own perspective, which is often subjective and sometimes based on bias; or it can represent the truth as an objective manifestation of reality, which is impossible for one person to grasp without the influence of his or her limiting viewpoint and perception. 

Open and honest communication means each party discusses his or her feelings and perspectives without judgment or schemes to “win” over the other. Each person realizes that that he or she doesn’t have a corner on the truth. Through talking with respect and compassion for one another, they reach an understanding of the fairest resolution to their separate views, while taking into consideration both of their needs for validation and wellbeing.

If one loved one, friend, or partner is continually submitting to the other’s paradigm of what is real or false, right or wrong, good or bad, that person is likely being manipulated by a self-serving individual for his or her own benefit. This is an unbalanced relationship in which the submissive partner is not being treated as an equal or enjoying the respect he or she deserves, but is rather under the control of a bully, a narcissist, or an abuser—quite possibly all three.

As humans, we are all complex beings, with the intrinsic right to be heard—to have our needs for acceptance, validation and respect acknowledged, especially by those who claim to care about us. And we each need to be free to make our own choices without undue influence. Raizer Maria Rilke said it beautifully: “Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.”

Attempting to control another person, and to  give that person a false or belittling concept of him- or herself, is a serious form of abuse, not unlike enslaving that individual with mental and emotional trickery. 

Mac de Pree made this observation: “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” A loving relationship has room for each person to enjoy the freedom of self-expression as long as he or she is not undermining the other party’s inherent rights or abusing that individual’s emotional needs.

When we first meet someone it’s impossible to know that person completely; in fact, we can never totally understand another, since we haven’t lived his or her life.  So how do we move forward, without taking on the risk of hurt and personal damage?

To try to avoid all risk is to hide from the potential joys of life. But we can still minimize our chance of becoming a victim to a dishonest user, who only has his or her best interests in mind. Actor Tom Hanks offers this wise suggestion: “Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candour.” 

While this doesn’t mean we need to tell our life stories on the first meeting with someone, it does imply that we should be open and honest about our thoughts, interests, needs, and values, and listen to that person with the same respect that we wish from him or her. From this beginning of mutual cooperation, a beautiful relationship has a chance to grow.  At the same time, we can assert our rights and boundaries and allow that person to do the same. If the friendship or love continues to grow, we’re on the right track to mutual trust, a partnership between equals, and even genuine happiness.  If not, we need to summon the courage to walk away with our minds, bodies, and spirits still intact.

 Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones

 Writer/Producer/ Speaker

 Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™

The Time is Always Now to Seize Opportunity

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Our time in this life is priceless. No matter who we are, we only have a limited amount of time on this earth, regardless of our wealth, fame, or prestige. Time is even more valuable than money, because once it’s lost there’s no way we can regain it. The sooner we become mindful of the value of time, the more likely we are to spend our time in ways that are beneficial to us. But how do we decide what’s good for us, or what will bring us happiness?

In the wise words of Carl Sandburg: “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” We need to look deeply within ourselves to begin to understand what will give us joy, as distinguished from what others expect from us, because what we believe will make us happy can sometimes be vastly different from what our family and friends think we should do with our lives.

So first we must be completely honest with ourselves, because we are the only ones in the driver’s seat, and no one else can make the crucial decisions that determine the course of our lives. This doesn’t give us license to be selfish and disregard others’ feelings. It doesn’t sanction blowing all our money on a night of gambling, just because we think it’s fun, regardless of the lasting consequences.  A wise use of time is much like a wise use of money. And it’s wise to invest both toward a fulfilling and meaningful future, rather than limit our thinking to immediate gratification.

While we all need to get that ice-cream sundae on occasion, or buy those expensive designer shoes, when we make a habit of spending our money on temporal luxuries, we find we have nothing left at the end of the month for the necessities of life, like gasoline or rent. It’s the same with time as with money. If we fritter our days and months away with little or no thought for the future, we waste time that we could use creating the best possible life for ourselves.

Especially when we’re young, we may believe we have forever to worry about how we spend our time, or how our actions impact the rest of our lives. But our youth is the perfect time to think about what will make us happy in the long term, and begin to do something about it. When we’re young we’re surrounded by opportunities, many of which won’t wait for us forever. While the adage “It’s never too late,“ holds a great deal of truth—in that it’s never too late to go to school, change careers, or marry the one we love—it can be more difficult to accomplish important goals when we postpone them, and besides, we can never regain the time we lost in evading responsibility. Author and filmmaker Ben Hecht wrote, “Time is a circus, always packing up and moving away.” Do you remember a time when you watched an opportunity slip away? If so, how did it make you feel? I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’ve lost opportunities.  For me, it felt like regret for not taking action about something I cared about when the time was right.

No one else can tell you what the best actions are when you’re faced with a particular opportunity, because they’re different for each of us, but you won’t know either, until you focus on what is meaningful for you at this moment that will likely still be meaningful for you tomorrow and the next day. I know, no one can predict the future. Things change. But you need to develop trust in yourself and be true to yourself in making the best choice at any moment. You don’t need to make boring predictable choices to avoid risk. In the words of publisher and author William Feather, “One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” The best gage to use is to make the choices that you feel passionate about, the ones that will hold your attention for an extended period of time.

Wherever you are in life, and whatever your age, opportunities are to be seized upon, that is, if they’re real. If one seems to good to be true, it’s wise to investigate it, but don’t let one slip away that you know is something you really want and seems within your grasp, even it if takes work to attain it. The things worth having in life are worth working for. And true happiness comes out of the self-respect we begin to feel when we take responsibility for our own lives. Author P.D. James made this astute observation: “God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest.”

The real fun and excitement is the adventure of our lives, not just the rest stops along the way. When you keep your eyes open for opportunities that are meaningful to you—and put your heartfelt enthusiasm into seeking them—you’ll discover they’re all around you. Some people call them coincidences. Others call them miracles. They may be both, but they’re often best appreciated when you take an active and selective part in making them happen.

There may be times when opportunities don’t need our input at all, but we still need to be there to enjoy them. In the words of inspirational writer William Arthur Ward, “Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”

 

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones

Writer/Producer/Speaker

Founder of  Women Who Walk the Talk™

 

 

 

This Independence Day, Declare Your Dependence

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I believe our forefathers shared some uniquely selfless ideals in founding the U.S.A. No one has expressed their sentiments better than Thomas Jefferson when he wrote these words in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Our ancestors who fought for these principles would smile to see our nationwide Fourth of July celebration of the freedom to live our lives in relative comfort, enjoying the liberties of democracy. We’re proud of our independence and we value its abundance, even if our share is modest.

Modest is a mild word in describing the standards of living some of us endure. A disturbing number of women are living on our own, without the support of a family or a stable job. In fact, many of us struggle to support our children, without sufficient income, childcare, or healthcare. According to current statistics, more than half of all children live below the poverty line in families headed by women; two thirds of minimum wage earners are women; and one in seven women lives below the poverty line. In fact, for millions of women, our share of the nation’s wealth is meager at best.

But we maintain our dignity. We can be proud of the courage we display in rising to meet enormous challenges on a daily basis. For the most part we’re stoic and hold it all together with hope for a better future, if not for us, for our children. Our resilience, our tenacity, and our faith seem to have no bounds. We keep our heads held high, in part because we can’t afford to do otherwise, since our neglect would cause our fragile world to fall apart.

And there’s a secret to our strength: we’ve learned firsthand that gratitude is the most empowering—and most humane—attitude we can take. Just as Maya Angelou wrote: “I know why the caged bird sings,” we whistle in the dark to deny our fear of the night. We may dream of freedom from our earthly burdens, but we understand they endow us with our humanity. And while most of us would like more financial independence, we’re looking ahead to years, decades, or generations of servitude and dependence on others to live at subsistence level.

Thankfully, here in the U.S. there’s some reason to hope: We have nothing to be ashamed of if we’re working class, which includes all ranks of people who serve others—including statesmen, physicians, educators, scientists—here in our free society. Thomas Jefferson was indeed our role model in this regard. All of us who are working to make the world a little better place, or even just to survive another day, are doing our part in a country of interdependence, or reliance on one another. There’s honor in this. It gives our lives purpose and meaning.

Motivational author Steve Atchison said, “Successful people have a sense of gratitude. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.” Those of us who do what we can to prevail and embrace our connection with others are contributing to a vast web of oneness. Our efforts at reaching out give us reason for pride tempered with humility. A sense of belonging emanates from the fact that we’re doing our best to stand on our own two feet. While we’re grateful we can trust in the decency of humanity in order to get by, we limit our requests for help to the times when we have needs of vital concern.

We can dream of more financial independence. In the meantime, we stand the best chance at the joy of self-respect if we practice appreciation for the amazing labors of love among human beings. We are giving and taking in fulfillment of our capacity to care for one another. And as we expand our compassion to a global level, the potential for shared abundance continues to grow.

This Independence Day, let’s acknowledge our dependence on humanity with gratitude and respect. We’ll be happier for it.

 

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones

Writer/Producer/ Speaker

Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™

Building Relationships with Friendship Potential

 

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Making genuine friends is different than meeting new contacts, although contacts can develop into friendships under the right circumstances. Perhaps you’ve just moved to a new environment. Maybe you plan to network to get that dream job. You’re determined to impress key people you meet. You think with some trepidation that you may need to put your friendships on hold while you climb your way to popularity and success.

Your real friends are your most valuable contacts. But while true friends will be glad to help out, they won’t want to feel used. Always put friendship first—and not for personal gain. Stay in touch with your friends, and show them you care. Anyone new you meet is at first a contact or acquaintance, possibly with the potential to become a friend.

Let’s say you’ve just moved to a new neighborhood or even a different city. Your friends are miles away. You’ve attended a cookout or two, but you aren’t making much progress in forming new bonds. You wonder what’s wrong. You wear a big smile. You have the gift of gab. You’re savvy on most topics. Why aren’t your listeners in awe of your conversation skills? First do some honest self-assessment, especially if you’re noticing some glassy-eyed stares when you’re speaking to virtual strangers.

Perhaps you’re trying too hard to be on. It’s obvious to others that you’re focused on yourself in your efforts to wow your target audience. It doesn’t matter how well you understand the facts regarding a particular subject, that person realizes you have no interest in him or her. Take heart, you’re not alone, in talking a little too much, especially under pressure, real or imagined.

Put yourself in your listener’s place. How many times have you tried to listen to someone who talks incessantly about him- or herself? My guess is that you felt frustrated, irritated, and possibly demoralized. Allow the other person to talk. If you’re paying attention, you may learn something. Ask polite questions in a light friendly tone. Then listen. When it’s your turn to talk, let them know you’ve heard what they said. If you want others to take notice you need to engage them. This means bonding with people by finding meaningful connections with them. This can only occur when individuals know their meaning is understood.

Networking usually alludes to making contacts within a business context, which has a somewhat more formal structure than making social contacts. The idea is to move from person to person with ease, connecting with other professionals in brief conversations to discover shared or complementary objectives. While this pattern can be intimidating, probably the biggest faux pas you can make is to gravitate to one person and stick like glue throughout the event, where there’s an implicit understanding that everyone is there to find new business opportunities and meet prospective clients—not to make a new BFF.

With practice, it becomes easier and more enjoyable to network and make new contacts. You can accumulate hundreds—even thousands—of contacts over time, whether you’re networking at an event or online—or even better—experiencing both venues. Making new contacts is an accomplishment when you use a meaningful interactive approach. Plus, you never know what  relationship might develop with the next person you meet—perhaps a lifetime friendship, although this can’t be forced. Besides, schmoozing can actually undermine any attempt to connect. Remember mutual trust doesn’t happen overnight. The key is to relax. Take one pleasant and stress-free step at a time.

 

Mary Kathryn “M.K. “ Jones

Writer/Producer/Speaker

Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™